Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Author Interview: J Barton Mitchell previews Midnight City

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Today I have J. Barton Mitchell on the blog to talk about MIDNIGHT CITY, his post alien invasion novel that rocked my socks off (my review later today). It comes out with St. Martin's Press on Oct 30, 2012.

Here's the summary:

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. The human adult population is gone, having succumbed to the Tone—a powerful, telepathic super-signal broadcast across the planet that reduces them to a state of complete subservience. But the Tone has one critical flaw. It only affects the population once they reach their early twenties. Which means that there is still one group left to resist: Children. 
Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It's not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn't something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a mysterious, young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey. 
As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she, as impossible as it seems, may just be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.

The cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to “dark” stories?
I think fear is a part of being alive. I also think that with the self consciousness that comes from being human, we all have a fear of...being afraid, ironically. We don't want to be scared, mainly because we don't want to show our fear to others, so there's something cathartic about “dark” stories set in frightening or disturbing places, because, I think one of the main reasons people love reading, is the ability it grants us to become someone else for a time. We all project ourselves onto the main character, and doing so with someone who is living in a dark world with dark repercussions and yet isn't inhibited by fear is very alluring. It feels good to go through these experiences as the main character and triumph over them...or, at least, be unintimidated by them. It's comforting and exciting at the same time.

A vision of Midnight City - the scorewall

If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
That's an interesting question, because I generally write to music. My go-to soundtrack for the book has pretty much been Daft Punk's score to TRON: LEGACY. A lot of that music is too electronic to really fit, but the orchestral stuff is amazing. The “Overture” to that soundtrack, to me, really captures how I see the story; it has a Copland-esque pastoral feel to it, which fits with a lot of the scenery in book one, especially the first half, but it still somehow hints at the kind of epic, Tolkien-like adventure the series strives to encompass.

What fictional character from another book would your main character choose as his/her best friend and why?
The series has three main characters, but book one concentrates the most on Holt Hawkins, who's a bounty hunter and a strict survivalist, which isn't unusual in that world. He throws off all opportunities for connection with other people, believing his self-sufficiency is the key to his survival. Things happen in the story, however, which make him question that conviction. I don't know about “best friend”, I'm not sure Holt would see having a close friend as an advantage when the story begins, but he's had partners in the past, people who shared his viewpoint and were wholly focused on survival. I think he would choose someone like Allan Quatermain or Duncan Idaho. Characters with a comparable skill set, who can survive in really difficult landscapes, and know how to live by their wits. They're also older, with lots of experience and things they could teach Holt, which he would also see as valuable.

The Strange Lands

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recommendations and why?
One of my favorite novels of all time, by one of my favorite authors. The first in William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, NEUROMANCER, while it didn't create the cyberpunk genre, certainly solidified it, and is considered the archetype of the genre. Full of amazing ideas, uncanny futurist predictions, a brilliantly conceived world, a fascinating and complex (to say the least) villain, and a twisting, sci-fi noir plot line that's riveting. Read all three if you haven't.

If you've read this unique post-apocalyptic tale, it won't come as a surprise that the Zone, created by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, was an influence on Conquered Earth, the Strange Lands specifically. This is a visionary piece of post-apocalyptic fiction, with a still wholly original setting that continues to inspire numerous creators today.

Everyone's favorite Stephen King book, and for good reason. A very original post-apocalyptic world, with an urban fantasy story that feels like H.P. Lovecraft mixed with EARTH ABIDES. King wanted to do a Tolkien-like epic fantasy adventure story, but with a contemporary setting, and his success here illustrates why Dystopian story worlds are so compelling: they allow for a variety of imaginative story forms, while still letting you have the sense of realism you miss out on with traditional fantasy or far future settings.

Not strictly a book, but a brilliant comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan, and well worth reading. The series follows the only man to survive the simultaneous death of every male mammal (barring the same man's pet monkey) on Earth. Really cool, unique, deceptively obvious premise, and a post-apocalyptic story world that continually evolves in unexpected ways. This series got Vaughan a gig writing for LOST, among other things (including adapting Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME for Spielberg and Showtime).

George Miller's masterpiece. Not a book, I know, but still a huge influence and something all fans of Dystopian stories should experience. Anything gritty, low tech, post-apocalyptic owes something to this movie. Violent and dark, realistic in some ways, absurd in others, like all greatly imagined worlds should be. Tremendous action, awesome wide screen photography of the Australian outback...and a main character who, in spite of his anti-hero nature, you still root for. The ending monologue is classic. “He lives now, only in my memories...” Try hard to see it on the big screen.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Actually win a game of Words With Friends. Seriously, you'd think I'd be better at it. Beyond that, probably travel, which is one of my passions. There are a lot of countries I haven't visited yet. I'd like to see as many of them as possible before the invasion begins.

Hiding from the aliens

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
I think there are several genres in play in Conquered Earth, the most obvious being post-apocalyptic and alien invasion. For me, the uniqueness of the series as a whole comes mainly from the fact that it's set almost a decade after the invasion. Typically, in alien invasion stories, the narrative takes place either during the invasion or immediately following it, and tends to focus on the resistance aspects; characters who are trying to overthrow their alien overlords.

With MIDNIGHT CITY, it's clear that isn't so much the case. The idea of a revolution is pretty much dismissed at the beginning of the story, the Assembly are just too powerful, and the characters have, for the most part, settled into a new existence, post-invasion, and in their own ways are trying to rebuild the world. The story has a lot of WAR OF THE WORLDS in it, to be sure...but also a lot of LORD OF THE FLIES as well. I was always fascinated by the idea of a world where kids and young adults were left in charge. What would they do? What kind of world would they build? The books explore those ideas in depth.

And while the series is technically post-apocalyptic, it's rarely, I think, a depressingly dark story. It has moments that are grim, but I always wanted to create a world that, despite its inherent darkness, was still fantastical with a sense of wonder and imagination that made you want to live in it. All my favorite worlds have had those elements, even if they were Dystopian.

Thanks J!

Visit J's website: http://jbartonmitchell.com
Follow J on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jbartonmitchell
Like J on Facebook: http://facebook.com/mitchelljb


Zibilee said...

The premise of this book sounds really interesting, and reminds me of that tone that only children can hear. I can imagine that this book is a heck of a ride, and that it tales it's subject matter to the limits. I also loved the visuals in this interview and review. I also loved that his answer about loving dark stories involved the power of reading as well! Lovely post today!

M.A.D. said...

This is the first I've heard of Midnight City ... and WOW! Sounds like an amazing dystopian/Sci-Fi ... and that score wall pic is wicked! :)

I must haves lol